Three of a kind

exemplary organizations challenged the status quo to lay the foundation for a better future



Purpose-driven projects have the potential to change the world. With a clear mission and careful planning, project teams can solve society's biggest problems, leaving an impact that will last for generations.

The three 2016 Project of the Year finalists each pushed the envelope in their own way. One designed a world-class research facility that enables subatomic X-rays of unprecedented precision. Another allowed a factory to quadruple its output while drastically reducing its environmental footprint. A third streamlined an Australian state's pediatric services to improve the lives of sick children.

Here's a first glimpse at each of this year's finalists. Look for PM Network feature stories on each in coming issues as well as videos on PMI's YouTube channel for up-close looks at their achievements.

Guaiba 2 Pulp Mill

Industrial growth doesn't have to come at the expense of the environment. Celulose Riograndense's new wood pulp facility in the city of Guaiba, Brazil, is a case in point.

The US$2.4 billion project launched in December 2012 and nearly quadrupled the production capacity of the facility while dramatically decreasing its impact on the environment. To make the factory as self-sufficient as possible, Celulose Riograndense designed a system that would generate 80 percent of its own energy through its production processes. The project also reduced the factory's water consumption by 60 percent, cut emissions and bolstered its recycling efforts.

“We recycle 99.8 percent of the factory's solid industrial waste,” says Alejandro Millan, PMP, project control specialist, Celulose Riograndense. “We have no waste.”

The project team reached these goals by prioritizing social and environmental responsibility. In addition to preserving natural resources, this meant respecting the factory's neighbors, offering new economic opportunities for locals and meeting high health and safety standards.

The project spent BRL50 million on local roads and infrastructure, created more than 9,400 jobs and procured as many goods locally as possible, injecting BRL2.3 billion into the local economy. But Celulose Riograndense needed to go even further to develop the talent required to successfully deliver its new facility, which produces the raw materials used to make paper products, like notebooks and newspapers. So the organization offered more than 230,000 hours of training courses to allow local residents to develop specialized skills.

“That's a legacy for the whole state and the whole country,” Mr. Millan says. “We qualified people who are now available to work in projects around the country.”

The project team also prioritized workforce safety. The company collaborated closely with the workers’ union to identify and address any safety concerns before they caused problems. As a result, the project closed with the lowest accident rate for industrial projects in Brazil's paper and pulp sector.


Celulose Riograndense's wood pulp facility in Guaiba, Brazil

“Safety comes first,” says Mr. Millan. “That's the bottom line.”

The project ended without a single workers’ strike, making it the only project of its type in Brazil to avoid a labor dispute. That helped the project close on time.

Mr. Millan attributes the project's success, in part, to regular alignment meetings that allowed stakeholders—including customers, main contractors and subcontractors, shareholders and nongovernmental organizations—to identify potential issues, assess risks and solve problems in a collaborative environment.

“That interaction creates a climate of transparency,” he says. “So every time you have a problem, you can discuss the problem and solve the problem. We did this systematically.”

Project: Guaiba 2 Pulp Mill

Budget: US$2.4 billion

Location: Guaiba, Brazil

Timeline: 2012–2015

Key player: Celulose Riograndense

Highlight: The Guaiba 2 project set a new benchmark for lost-time accidents on pulp and paper industry projects in Brazil.


Lady Cilento Children's Hospital

When patients get lost in a fractured healthcare system, their quality of care begins to suffer.

In Queensland, Australia, this was happening to some of the state's sickest children. Government investigations found the pediatric healthcare system was putting children with complicated medical problems at risk by shuttling them between two or three hospitals to receive care. To reduce mortality rates—and make it easier for patients to receive care from the state's limited number of specialists—the Queensland government decided to consolidate and centralize pediatric services in 2006. That's when it launched the Lady Cilento Children's Hospital (LCCH) project.

“Something significant had to be done to improve the quality of care for kids in Queensland,” says Susie Pearn, client director health and education, Aurecon, the project management firm for LCCH.


Lady Cilento Children's Hospital, Queensland, Australia

Project: Lady Cilento Children's Hospital

Budget: AU$1.5 billion

Location: Brisbane, Australia

Timeline: 2006–2014

Key players: Aurecon, Queensland Health, sick children and their families

Highlight: To manage patient care during the daylong hospital move, Aurecon developed a simulation model that resulted in an on-schedule relocation with no medical complications.

The LCCH project provided an integrated facility that put families at the center of operations—while also reducing redundancy across the healthcare system. But to make this vision a reality, the project team had to merge and close two existing public children's hospitals, and transfer pediatric cardiac services from a private hospital to the new facility in Brisbane.

To keep the integration portion of the project on track, the project team created a governance structure that addressed the building work and all of the operational pieces that needed to come together. This included a suite of memorandums of understanding that outlined the principles of how the public and private health operators would work together.

“In practice, we had a number of people from the non-government hospital embedded in the project office that worked with the equivalent government representatives,” says Graeme McKenzie, technical director, environment and advisory services, Aurecon. “So it was an integrated project office.”

Queensland Health, the sponsoring government agency, had a long list of benefits it wanted the LCCH project to deliver, including improved patient outcomes, better access to specialized services, coordinated care and high staff satisfaction and retention rates. To ensure the project would reach these goals, the Queensland government required the team to follow a formal benefits management process.

“There's a consistent framework that's applied across all projects,” says Mr. McKenzie. “That tests whether you're on track for the benefits you're expecting to realize.”

In November 2014, the project was delivered on time and within budget. Its benefits are being realized: providing child and family-focused care and clinical services at an international standard, with a reduced cost and in a single location.

“On opening day, one of the kids going through with parents said, ‘Mom, do you mean that we only have to come to one place now for everything? That's amazing,’” says Ms. Pearn. “That made all of the eight years of the project worthwhile.”


National Synchrotron Light Source II

Revolutionary scientific discoveries don't come cheap. The equipment alone can be cost-prohibitive for even the wealthiest universities and corporations. To push into the next frontier of knowledge, researchers must find a way to work together.

That's where the government can be a powerful partner. In the United States, the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science supports the design, construction and operation of large-scale, open-access facilities that are too complex and costly for any individual institution to build or maintain alone. (DOE is a PMI Global Executive Council member.)

The US$912 million National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II) project in Upton, New York, USA is the DOE's latest contribution to the scientific community. Completed in March 2015, NSLS-II is now the world's most powerful photon microscope, allowing researchers from around the world to analyze materials with atomic precision and observe how they behave under real-world conditions. The facility will help scientists develop a better understanding of nanoscale materials and advance energy technologies, says Steven Dierker, PhD, project director for the NSLS-II project. He's also a professor of physics at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, USA.

“I'm sure there will be discoveries at NSLS-II in the area of life sciences that will enable us to understand disease mechanisms and develop new drugs,” says Dr. Dierker.

But when the project was launched in August 2005, the specifications for NSLS-II were at or beyond state-of-the-art, particularly with respect to magnet precision and alignment and advanced optics. This meant substantial innovation was needed in the R&D phase to deliver a resource that would support cutting-edge research for the facility's life span, which is roughly 30 years.

“Since it was R&D, there was always some risk associated with what the results will be,” says Dr. Dierker. “We needed to develop contingency plans depending upon how that work would turn out.”


NSLS-II project during construction in Upton, New York, USA

In order to achieve NSLS-II's record-breaking brightness, which translates to a higher resolution for the X-rays produced, the team partnered with leading researchers and experts from around the world. Advisory committees helped design an extremely precise and stable accelerator ring system as well as the necessary optics that would produce the desired resolution—but the team had to procure 900 custom-built magnets.

“We needed to design these magnets with a precision that greatly exceeded anything that had been achieved previously,” says Dr. Dierker. “In a number of cases, the vendors had difficulty meeting our demanding requirements.”

The team worked with the advisory committees to identify which requirements could be relaxed without compromising the ring's performance. It also held regular workshops with global scientific stakeholders throughout the project cycle to ensure the facility would achieve best-in-class status. In the end, the team was able to close the project ahead of schedule and under budget. Careful planning even allowed for scope enhancements that had not been included in the baseline.

“We were able to add in about US$68 million in scope during the course of the project because of the very favorable cost performance throughout the life of the project,” says Dr. Dierker. PM

Project: National Synchrotron Light Source II

Budget: US$912 million

Location: Upton, New York, USA

Timeline: 2005–2015

Key players: U.S. Department of Energy, Brookhaven National Laboratory, researchers and academics from around the world

Highlight: During its peak construction period in 2011, the project was spending about US$1 million per working day.

And the Winner Is…

The 2016 PMI Project of the Year Award will be presented at PMI Global Congress 2016—North America, 25–27 September in San Diego, California, USA. Register at congresses., and be sure to reserve a seat at the PMI Professional Awards Gala on 24 September, the evening before Congress officially gets underway. To apply for the 2017 PMI Project of the Year or other professional awards, head to




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